The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Century Edition, Volume 4

I’m not sure I should even bother with this review, considering the book I read is 80 years old and has since gone out of print. Nevertheless I’m compelled to share with you how surprised I was by the content here. We know Edgar Allan Poe as a pretty spooky dude, but the short stories you’ll encounter here will remind you way more of an adult-oriented Dr. Seuss than The Raven, minus the rhyming. let me tell you about my favorite example, as I understood it.

A young lady wishes to become a writer, and she is told by her publisher that the best stories are sensationalist ones, and so he recommends that she get herself into some terrible sort of trouble so that she can write about it afterwards. Let’s say, being eaten by a lion for example. She agrees on this point and decides to see just how much danger she can get herself into.

In the following story, this same character, who has quite the ego, is wandering the streets at night with her dog and slave (this was the early 19th century after all) when she spots a high clock tower with a view she just must experience. When she gets to the top, she realizes that the opening through which she can look out through is just too high, so she needs to stand on her slave’s shoulders. She looks outside for an obscene amount of time longer than her slave can stand with her weight, and then realizes that the minute hand is starting to push down on her neck and decapitate her. This happens very slowly, and after her eye falls out she gets upset, not that it’s gone but because it appears to look up at her with “the insolent air of independence and contempt.” When her head is finally free she bids it good riddance, and don’t even ask how she manages to write this story, or hear the speech made from her head on the ground.

Weirdest. Story. Ever.

Despite the decapitation here it’s definitely not written as a horror story so much as a satire or… I don’t even know. If you’re sick of reading Poe’s old classics over and over and over again, maybe this collection will adequately jar you.

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